Sweet Potatoes

Growing sweet potatoes is a sustainable way to enjoy delicious nutritious food all year.

Using a homegrown potato or a store bought potato, place wooden toothpicks in the potato and suspend it over water in a jar at least six weeks before the final frost in spring. Place it in a warm sunny window. Eventually, it should sprout, but this process takes several weeks. Once the overnight temperature outside reaches 60 degrees Fahrenheit, preferably at least 70 degrees, the potato with sprouts can be placed in well-drained loose soil at a depth of 12-15 inches. I’ve successfully cut a potato into several pieces making sure each piece has multiple healthy sprouts. After several months, at least three or four, the potatoes should be ready to harvest.

In climates where frost occurs, potatoes should be harvested before or immediately after the first heavy frost. Otherwise, the potatoes could rot. Where mice, voles or other underground rodents are a problem, it’s best to plant sweet potatoes in a tub or box. Though rodents can still dig from the top, the risk is much lower. I like to use tubs designed for small yard ponds. I drill drainage holes in the bottom, fill them with dirt, and simply dump them over when it’s time to harvest the potatoes.

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Once potatoes are harvested, they should be cleaned and allowed to cure. This means allowing the potatoes to dry completely for at least a week in a warm place. Room temperature will work, but 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. The potatoes will keep, if not exposed to moisture, until the following growing season. Personally, I keep some to sprout for the next growing season, keep some in a paper bag in a cabinet to use fresh, and can the rest by peeling and cutting them into chunks. I place the chunks in jars, fill the canning jars an inch below the top, add lids and rings and pressure cook at ten pounds for 90 minutes.

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If I were to add up the time I spend, it takes less than five minutes to put a potato in a jar. It takes about 15 minutes or less to fill tubs with dirt. It takes about 20 minutes to harvest potatoes and wash them. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to prepare ten to twenty pounds of potatoes for canning. From a time standpoint, I can’t find a reason why anyone would argue that growing sweet potatoes is ridiculously time consuming. And the time I save when I open a jar and eat the contents with or without additional preparation more than makes up for any preparatory time.

©Room2GrowGarden.com, April 10, 2018

 

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